October 14, 2008

Severe Famine Overtaking Zimbabwe

Famine on a scale never before seen in Zimbabwe is quickly and quietly overtaking the country, aid workers said.

Emaciated children are dying a rate that is overwhelming rural hospitals and is even spreading to sections of the urban middle classes as a result of an economic catastrophe brought about by President Robert Mugabe's policies, The Times of London reported Tuesday.

The newspaper said that an undercover 600-mile journey through Zimababwe's Manicaland province revealed exhausted food reserves and widespread instances of kwashiorkor, marasmus and pellagra -- diseases brought about by hunger. About 5 million people in Zimbabwe are facing starvation, two-thirds of the country's children cannot attend school and water shortages have led to deadly cholera outbreaks, The Times reported.

"Malnutrition is a silent emergency that affects young children and they die quietly," Geoff Foster, a pediatrician in a hospital in Mutare, told the newspaper. "There is a famine situation prevailing and it is desperate."

Food shortages started in 2000 when Mugabe began confiscating white-owned farms for political reasons, and although he has partially relaxed a ban on food distribution by aid agencies, restrictions are still severely handicapping relief delivery, aid officials say.


Image Caption: This late 1960s photograph shows a seated, listless child with Kwashiorkor, a disease brought on due to a severe dietary protein deficiency, and this child, whose diet fit such a deficiency profile, presented with symptoms including edema of legs and feet, light-colored, thinning hair, anemia, a pot-belly, and shiny skin. (CDC)